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FEMA Reservist Shares Experience From COVID Pandemic Frontlines

Jasmine Deloatch
Assistant Editor
New Journal and Guide

FEMA has played an intricate role in providing help during the pandemic and among those on the frontlines, stands Ken Sutton. Sutton joined FEMA in 2017 after serving in the secret service, and he continues to live a life of service as a FEMA reservist.

FEMA’s mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. FEMA employs 20,000 people worldwide, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

FEMA found its way into Sutton’s heart after he was sent on an assignment in Puerto Rico to assist after the hurricane.

“I worked there for months. I really enjoyed helping people,” Sutton shared.

He was asked his plans after retiring from his secret service position and was offered a FEMA reservist position. His next assignment was Florida after Hurricane Michael, then Alaska in 2019 to assist with earthquake damage. Louisiana was his next stop, where he assisted at Lake Charles post-hurricane.

Sutton is now working with FEMA in Norfolk and assisting with vaccination sites. He shared that it’s nice to finally be back home.

He describes his experience working for FEMA as “long days, long nights. No day is the same. Days start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and continue for about 12 hours. Six or seven days a week at the beginning of any disaster is the norm.”

He shares that for much of the summer, working outside in 100 degree heat was also the normal for many FEMA employees.

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“One thing that is important to me is to make sure everyone understands that we are not providing customer service. These are survivors. They have just gone through the most traumatic experience of their life. They are in shock.” Sutton said.

Sutton shares incitement on working for FEMA, including the many avenues that are available to work for the entity. He shares that local hire is the first approach. The second way is usajobs.gov. FEMA reserves are on call.

Here’s a look into the vaccination sites. Sutton shared that the site in Norfolk at Military Circle Mall is administering 2,000 shots a day and that there are no restrictions in regards to anyone getting a vaccine at this site. There are over 100 employees working the site along with military services as well. Local volunteer groups including Volunteer Hampton Roads, and Team Rubicon are also assisting.

David Thomason, PR for FEMA, encourages people, as did Sutton, to come and get vaccinated. Insurance is not necessary, only a photo ID. The goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible. The site was selected due to the community being highly infected. This site is open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and they are administering the Pfizer vaccine.

Thomason shares that many people do experience a range of emotions before taking the vaccine and that the anticipation is often met with relief after the vaccine has been administered.

“Most people are happy and generally the waiting time is less than fifteen minute.” said Thomason.

“We want people to come get vaccinated.” said Thomason., “It’s best to come before six. The wait is not usually longer than fifteen minutes, but you can get ahead by making a reservation at www.norfolk.gov/covid19vaccine.

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